Reflections on Taste Washington 2009
Last Saturday, I attended the Taste Washington seminars, which once again offered useful insights and frames of reference on our state's wines. It was also fun to meet other wine bloggers, including Alder Yarrow of Vinography, and the folks from Wine Peeps, whom I really enjoyed getting to know (see links to their coverage below).
With all that these Saturday seminars have to offer wine enthusiasts, it was surprising how few consumers go to this event. For example, of the 40 people in one session I attended, only 3 of us were consumers, with the other 37 being associated with the wine trade.
As evidenced by the number of sommeliers, distributors, writers, and retailers in the audience and on the panels, it's clear these seminars are designed for the trade. As a result, the presentations and ensuing discussions tend to get a bit too technical, even for my taste (no pun intended).
Even still, there is nothing better than tasting through a flight of wines while listening to the viticulturist talk about the fruit grown in the vineyard or the winemaker discussing his or her approach in the winery. And those presentations that included photographs of vineyards and maps of their locations went a long way to connecting us to the places behind each wine (more of this is needed in future seminars).
In general, I found this year's seminar event more toned down in terms of energy and enthusiasm. For example, last year's event seemed more focused on celebrating the food friendliness of Washington wines, where as this year I failed to hear or see a similar emphasis. The amount of food offered at last Saturday's event stood in stark contrast to 2008.
Last year, the sit down lunch featured 3 courses with 5 different wines. The food was crafted by a recent Top Chef winner, who prepared the meal again in front of us using a mobile kitchen. Meanwhile, a nationally recognized sommelier/writer guided us through each course/flight, eventually ending in a fun Q&A session. It was a terrific meal and a well executed event.
And if that wasn't enough to feed everyone, one of the afternoon seminars, Riesling Rocks, featured a multi-course sample plate catered by Wild Ginger. Tasting the flight of riesling with food was a fantastic experience and it was even better hearing winemakers, sommeliers, and others comment on the pairings. Again, a true celebration of wine and food.
Blame the economy this year, but something seemed to be lost at midday when we were treated to a reception-style "networking" lunch that included mass produced wine by the glass from several big name producers in our state. The celebration of wine and food that occurred at last year's Saturday seminars was sorely missed this year. I hope the folks consider bringing this back next year.
I will be commenting more on different aspects of the seminars in upcoming posts. In the meantime, check out the varied coverage of the Saturday seminars and Sunday grand tasting (which I did not attend) via the links below.
Full Disclosure: If not already obvious by the media badge above, then it's worth calling out that I attended the Taste Washington seminars free-of-charge.